With the Knicks vs Miami, and Lakers vs Thunder taking place outside of Florida today, other NBA greats were beginning to trickle into the City Beautiful. Most of the All-Star Weekend events were to be held at the Orange County Convention Center; however, astute fans quickly learned that players were appearing throughout Orlando as well. On this date I was lucky to find Boston Celtic great, Paul Pierce, at the Florida Mall of all places.
The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge is a competitive match-up of NBA Freshmen and Sophomores (still in their 1st 2 years of being in the league). Tonight, many eyes were watching the surprise rookie from the NY Knicks, Jeremy Lin, who emerged from the shadows and whose explosive popularity became known as 'Linsanity'.
My wife and I were able to attend the BBVA Rising Stars Practice session, which was between Team Chuck (Barkley) and Team Shaq (O'Neal). It was awesome to see Maurice Cheeks on the floor as a coach. This was a player I used to see my dad cheering for years ago as we would watch the Detroit PIstons on TV. At the practice, the crowd would erupt each time rookie sensation, Jeremy Lin, would touch the ball. At the end of the Challenge, it would turn out that Team Chuck would overtake Team Shaq, 144-136.
I opted to attend the Practice instead of the actual All-Star game, thinking that I could get closer to the players. It proved to be a good decision on my part as the Practice session wasn't terribly packed or security-heavy.
The All-Star Practice was amazing though. With much speculation over whether or not Dwight Howard would remain the star-center of our Orlando Magic, Howard was the local favorite for the All-Star Game. I couldn't believe though that I was seeing so many elite athletes on the floor at one time -- Kobe, Lebron, Durant, Rose -- and this was just to name a few!